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Strip down for charity with the SS Run

Posted by Alex Pearlman  November 29, 2011 09:18 AM

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santa speedo run.jpgBy Kenny Soto

You’re running along Boylston Street, one of the busiest roads in one of the most fashionable parts of the city. All of a sudden, you feel a cool breeze -- a very cool breeze -- on your legs. You look down and realize the only thing covering your body is a bright red Speedo and a little bit of tinsel. Your ears perk up, as you hear shouts from the crowd of people lining the sidewalk and cheering you on.

Is this a dream or is it a nightmare? At Boston’s annual SS Run on Dec. 10, it'll be a reality.

More commonly known as the Santa Speedo Run, the SS Run has become a Boston tradition since the first event in 2000. Runners from all over New England come together to have a drink, shed their running clothes in favor of red Speedos, sports bras, and bikini bottoms, and run one mile down Boylston Street on a (hopefully not too) frigid December Saturday.

“It started out as a practical joke: Four other guys and I decided it would be really funny to run down Newbury Street in Santa hats and Speedos," said Jon Ianelli, founder of the SS Run. "We had a boombox with the Muppets singing Christmas carols. We got out of the car and just started running.” But the reaction was so overwhelmingly positive that Ianelli decided to turn what was then known as the Santa Speedo Run (the official name has been changed due to trademark issues) into a yearly event that raises money for local charities.

Twelve years later, the run has become more popular than ever. Noreen Finn, a first-time SS Runner, is excited to join her teammates out in the cold. “I’m doing it with a couple of my girlfriends; we’re Santa’s Panty Bandits," she said, showing no concern over the distance or the weather. “I run in the cold all the time, and it’s only a mile. It’s no big accomplishment.”

santa speedo run 2.jpgBut there's plenty for both first-timers and SS Run veterans to be excited for. Katie Benjamin, who will run for the sixth time in as many years, remembered the incredible crowd reaction during her first SS Run. “The first year I ran, it was 5 degrees, there was a blizzard the night before, and I did it alone," she said. "Everyone thought I was nuts, until they came and experienced the crowd and awesome nature of the whole event. Now there's a group of 5-7 loyalists (depending on who's pregnant that year) that run with me.”

Alex Balsley fondly reminisced about the glory he felt during his first SS Run. “I was rounding the last corner towards Lir, and there was a crowd maybe six or seven people deep," he said. "I stopped in front of them and posed with my hands behind my head -- so many camera flashes!”

The money raised through this year's run will go to the Play Ball! Foundation, a charity that organizes sports and other athletic activities for underprivileged children in the Boston area. While the event has already reached its cap for registered runners, it's not too late to donate in the name of your favorite Speedo-clad participant.

“It’s fun, it’s crazy -- being in the crowd is amazing, and being a runner is even better," said Kristin Mattera, a former SS Runner. "The holiday spirit and camaraderie is like nothing else I’ve been to.”

Photos by *Aqualung (top) and hynkle (bottom)

About Kenny -- I'm a professional blogger and entertainer. In my spare time, I enjoy Boston sports and exploring all of the adventures that my hometown has to offer. You can connect with me on Twitter @RealKennySoto.

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